2 Years On

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It was two years ago today that we lost our first baby. Our little angel. When I think of that horrendous time it feels like it happened in another lifetime. Because even though it shook us to our core and changed us forever it also feels incredibly distant now. It’s amazing what the human spirit is capable of. In just two years our life is unrecognisable. We have climbed out of that dark hole and are in an entirely different place. That is not to say that we don’t still think about that pregnancy, baby, loss, emptiness – we do – but it is now a world away from where we are now.

I remember being told the diagnosis and making the worst decision of our lives. Worst, not because we regret it, but because it broke our hearts to do so. I remember the hospital, the delivery and coming home feeling everything was broken. I remember waking the next day and then remembering what had happened – what was lost – and feeling like things would never be okay again.

And while we wish more than anything that things could have been different we are okay. Better than okay. We have a baby who is the centre of our world. He is not a replacement. He is our second child. He healed us and made us feel like the luckiest parents in the world. To say we adore him is an understatement. He is a new chapter.

One day we will tell him about his big brother. We will tell him how I carried him in my tummy for 5 months. We will tell him that we loved him too and that we were desperate to meet him. We will tell him that he is a part of our family too.

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Does having an IVF baby change your parenting?

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For most of my adult life I was a laid back, stress-free kind of person. Honest! So it is quite bizarre to me that as a mother I am more of a worrier than I ever could have imagined.

My pregnancy neurosis (following our previous pregnancy loss) evolved into a less stressful but equally real anxiety surrounding the well-being of our little boy. Now admittedly that is largely down to the fact that my son is a terrible feeder who would happily exist solely on air! Perhaps if he had a greater appetite I would stress less. However it doesn’t take a genius to realise that given our history and the fact that my son is the product of IVF, I view him as even more miraculous and special than perhaps I otherwise would. I wonder how many other women feel that their parenting is influenced by their route to motherhood. Do the challenges faced in conception impact on the way we view our IVF babies?

Most couples with an infertility problem wait for a long time and undergo lengthy procedures before they finally get their much-desired baby. In recent years, several studies have been published comparing the parent–child relationship and the child’s psychosocial development in families with children conceived by IVF and families with naturally conceived children. The results are not conclusive, and most of the measures in the studies revealed no significant differences in the quality of the parent–child relationship between IVF families and families with naturally conceived children. However in my experience I certainly feel both that little bit more blessed and scared that I have my gorgeous baby.

Unless the IVF has nothing to do with it. My dad is totally neurotic and over-protective so I could just take after him!

Three Visits

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We have just returned from our first family holiday to Israel. As we walked down the beach with our baby in his pram I couldn’t help thinking back to the last two visits I made to Israel.

The previous one was in October, I was 20 weeks pregnant and while I was incredibly grateful to be pregnant I was also extremely anxious about the outcome of my pregnancy. As I looked out across the sea I thought to myself ‘I hope I have a baby on my next visit’.

The trip prior to that was last March two weeks after the loss of our baby and it was a bleak and miserable time. I was unsure what the future held, when I may be pregnant again and how I would cope with the heartbreaking loss.

What struck me was how different life was on each of the three visits and how quickly and dramatically things can change. You may feel like things are not progressing on your journey to parenthood, or you may have had a loss that seems crippling. This time next year things may be very different.

Footprints on the Heart

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When you have lost a baby the grief can seem like a very private thing. People don’t want to mention it in case they upset you and it can sometimes seem like the world has forgotten or dismissed what has happened. I still find it therapeutic to discuss our loss and the baby we were never able to have. Recently I came across an organisation called Footprints on the Heart, whose aim is to provide hope and healing to those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. They organise a 5K Run and Memorial Balloon Release to provide families an opportunity to honour their loved ones. Events like this show how meaningful it is to mark the life of the babies that were lost and openly share their memory with the world.

The Child Who Was Never Born

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I wanted to share this beautiful sculpture called ‘The Child Who Was Never Born’. As an art student, Martin Hudáček of Slovakia was moved to create a sculpture to draw attention to the devastation losing a child can bring. The sculpture shows a woman in great sorrow grieving the child she never knew. The second figure, the child, is created in a translucent material that adds an angelic presence. In a very touching, healing way, she comes to the mother, to offer comfort.

Always Our Baby

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It has been 1 year since we lost our precious first baby. Bizarrely it feels like it was a long time ago and yesterday all at the same time. The traumatic experience of terminating the pregnancy (for medical reasons at 21 weeks) and the sadness that filled our lives was so heartbreaking that I cannot believe we survived it.

However a year on we are different people. We still carry the pain but it is not raw and crushing like it was. We still talk about what happened and we still are in disbelief about what we and our baby went through.

A year on and our life is different too. We are two weeks from expecting another baby. The experience of losing our first baby has made pregnancy a difficult time. But the hope of a new baby has helped us heal and restored our faith. This baby will never replace the baby we lost and there will always be a profound sense of loss for what could have been.

So today, like everyday, we think of you and the love that will always exist between us.

Yikes

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It’s all a bit mad. The wallpaper is up. The baby stuff has arrived. The antenatal class has been done. Now we wait, hope and pray we are blessed with a baby.

On Sunday we attended an antenatal class at the hospital where we received lots of useful information to help us prepare for the labour and the first few days of the baby’s life. My husband went a little white when shown some of the images of placentas. Most notably, the midwife said that since this is not my first labour it should be quicker. Second and subsequent labours tend to be much quicker because the cervix tends to dilate more quickly than it did the first time. She also believes that it is typical that first babies arrive late, but that since this is my second it is more likely to be on time or early. Hopefully this little one will come soon! Not this weekend though, as my husband is on a stag weekend (eek!). Furthermore the fact that this labour is only one year since the previous one should mean that my body remembers how to prepare for labour. Silver lining I guess.

Unlike most I am actually excited about the labour. When it finally happens I am sure I will be a little anxious but I don’t feel scared. It cannot be worse than last time. Maybe I used up all my anxiety during pregnancy so none is left for labour! I don’t want to sound ungrateful to anyone desperate to be pregnant but given what has happened I am ready for pregnancy to end and motherhood to begin. Until then I won’t feel like we are out of the danger zone.

Fog of Grief

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Marina Fogle recently described her grief following the loss of her baby boy last summer. At 33 weeks, she suffered an acute placental abruption where her placenta detached from her uterus starving the baby of oxygen and causing a life-threatening haemorrhage.

The following quotes show the process of coping with the horrendous grief she faced. She says:

“Until that point I had had very little experience of profound sadness. Shocked to the point of numbness, I have since felt myriad emotions.”

“Crying, when it comes, is crucial, it’s a natural release. I frequently have a really good sob; it’s very physical: it is like feeling nauseous and knowing instinctively that you will feel better if you let yourself be sick. I believe that crying provides me with the release to expel my sadness so that I’m equipped to relish what is good in my life.”

“Grief is exhausting. You’ll find you need much more sleep than you used to. It can also affect your brain, your ability to remember things and to concentrate. This perplexed me so much that I worried for a time that my extreme blood loss had resulted in some brain damage. It was reassuring to know that it is normal and will slowly improve. I warned those around me that if I was forgetful, distracted or absent-minded, to forgive me.”

“This is a time to spoil yourself: book a holiday, get your hair done, lose yourself in a box set – and if you feel like eating ice-cream for breakfast, do it. It won’t make everything all right, but lots of little boosts will help you feel more human.”

“Don’t be afraid to talk about what has happened to you. At the beginning it was hard, but now I know that each time you talk about it, you will adjust a degree emotionally. You will never ”get over’’ your loss, but slowly you will come to terms with what is your new normal.”

“On August 24 my world shifted on its axis and I’m gradually accepting that, in one part of my life, I’m extraordinarily lucky, with a loving husband, Ben, two perfect children Ludo, and Iona, 3, and the most wonderful family and friends. But in another part, we’ve been catastrophically unlucky. No one could have predicted the sudden death of our son and the events that ensued; it was sheer bad luck. These two dichotomies don’t balance each other, creating a kind of ”OK’’ equilibrium; they coexist in their extreme forms.”

Wise words from a brave and courageous woman. Let’s hope there are happier times ahead for all those battling grief and loss.

Shine A Light

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The festive period is upon on us. With that comes excessive shopping, spending and indulgence. It made me want to do something for a cause close to our hearts.

We lost a much-loved, much-wanted baby this year who suffered from a debilitating medical condition. However many babies born with similar conditions have a different path in life. They face a brave life filled with ongoing medical challenges. In memory of our little one we decided to raise some money for those babies who will need support throughout childhood and adulthood.

Last night we brought our friends together for a Chanukah party where they gave so generously. It blew us away. We knew our friends were special but we are so grateful and appreciative for their kindness. I am thrilled that we can help others to lead as meaningful lives as possible. Chanukah is the festival of light and I hope we can shine some on some very special little ones.

Dear Santa

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While Christmas is an exciting time of year for many, it is also a time when those who have experienced struggles, loss or grief can find it especially difficult. Many couples facing infertility or pregnancy loss will have hoped that they would have a new baby by this Christmas. I have seen many comments on blogs and forums that express disappointment over their situation and a reluctance to embrace the festive period.

I am the least Christmassy person you could ever meet (I just don’t get the hype!) so it was never going to be an issue for me. This time of year is not momentous for me in any way. But I can appreciate that for many it is a time for family and that can be hard when you hoped yours would look very different.

My advice is to:

  • avoid placing too much emphasis on what is essentially one day of the year – just like any time of year there is hope and a multitude of opportunities and possibilities ahead
  • look at what you have got, rather than what you have not got – you may not have the baby you are desperate for but you have many other wonderful things in your life
  • embrace the distraction – consider the time off work or the socialising the perfect thing to occupy your thoughts. If you don’t feel sociable get cosy with some comfort food and watch elf and home alone!

Superstition Ain’t The Way

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Stevie Wonder is right. Superstition ain’t the way. I have never been a superstitious person. In fact I am quite the opposite. To me the belief in superstition, that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events, is totally insane. However when it comes to this pregnancy my rationality has well and truly gone out the window!

In my illogical, neurotic brain doing anything I did in my last pregnancy cannot be repeated in this pregnancy or it will jinx, risk or endanger this pregnancy. That includes but is not limited to signing up for antenatal classes, wearing a baby on board badge on the underground and planning or purchasing anything for the nursery or baby. I have accepted that I will have to make an exception and buy a few essentials, a car seat and some baby grows, but I will wait until March for that. I know I sound totally mad but I have just accepted that I will be a lunatic worrier until the baby arrives and there’s little I can do to avoid that!

Ben Fogle Speaks For The First Time

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TV star Ben Fogle has bravely spoken for the first time about the heartache of nearly losing his wife during the birth of his stillborn son. In August his wife Marina was within 20 minutes of death, as she struggled to give birth to their third child, a son who was stillborn at 32 weeks. The presenter admitted that the harrowing experience was a reminder of the fragility of life and has made him appreciate every moment with his young family – Ludo, four, and Iona, three. He described how the son he never had the pleasure of meeting inspires him and motivates him to ensure his children ‘enjoy every moment of their life’.

‘There’s a little boy we never got to know and if there’s anything we owe him in getting so close to having met him, and yet so far, it’s to live life even more for him,’

The father-of-two says that since the ordeal in August, not a day goes by when he doesn’t say ‘I love you’ to his family and says the experience taught him he to never take life for granted. The presenter says his philosophy is now to smile, be happy and to seize opportunity that he possibly can.